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'Ichiefu,' manga by Fukushima nuke plant worker, to hit shelves abroad

Three volumes of the manga "Ichiefu" are seen. (Mainichi)

"Ichiefu," a manga-cum-reportage series about the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by an artist who actually works there, is set to be published in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Taiwan.

    A total of some 20,000 copies of the "Ichiefu" series -- a dispassionate account of operations at the plant based on the day-to-day working experiences of 50-year-old author Kazuto Tatsuta (a penname) -- will hit shelves in the foreign markets. The question now is: How will the manga be received abroad?

    "Ichiefu" debuted in 2013 in the manga weekly "Morning," published by Kodansha Ltd., and has appeared on an irregular basis since. In autumn this year, it was also released as a three-volume book series with a total of some 350,000 copies in print. Morning's editorial department asked Kodansha to find foreign publishers for the popular work, and the firm found five. The most interested party came from France, where the partner publishing house is set to print 8,000 copies of "Ichiefu" in French.

    "Ichiefu" author Kazuto Tatsuta, right foreground, meets with Kaboom magazine editor Stephane Beaujean, left, and Christel Hoolans, executive general manager at manga publisher Kana, in Tokyo in November 2015. (Mainichi)

    Stephane Beaujean, editor-in-chief of the French magazine Kaboom, a critical quarterly about the world of comics, and Christel Hoolans, executive general manager at Belgium-based manga publisher Kana, visited Japan in mid-November this year to record an interview with Tatsuta. Both Beaujean and Hoolans came away thinking that "Ichiefu" had real news value as a work of manga reportage on the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdowns.

    According to Beaujean, an expert in both Japanese manga and foreign comics, comics-as-reportage is a distinct genre in France. He went on to say that Japanese manga has a devoted following in France, and there's a good chance "Ichiefu" will be well received there. Hoolans pointed out that there are many nuclear plants in France, so there is also a lot of interest in the Fukushima crisis. People who don't usually read manga but are curious about the nuclear disaster could pick up a copy of "Ichiefu," she continued.

    For Tatsuta's part, he told the Mainichi Shimbun, "I wanted to communicate from the point of view of a regular worker how the (Fukushima plant) site and Fukushima Prefecture itself are constantly changing. I suspect that there's less news on the nuclear disaster abroad than there is in Japan, so I'm very happy to get the chance to tell foreign readers about it."

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